Ms Robin's Garden

  (Caneyville, Kentucky)
Happenings on the Hilltop
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Challenges Of Spring

Gardening in spring is always a challenge, but this year has been especially so. A friend commented I've been working like a rented mule. She's right, at least some days I have been. Other days, I've been cursing the weather and doing other gardening related chores that can be done in the greenhouse or indoors.
I try to work around whatever Mother Nature throws our way, but my patience is wearing thin these days. We had wonderfully beautiful days early on when we able to start breaking ground for the new garden, followed by rain, so had to wait a few more days for the second plowing. I had built up and planted a few raised rows before Al returned home from working out of town, then I became ill and had to spend a week in the hospital. Al took care of all the plants in the greenhouse until I could get back at it. Then there was a 2 day cold snap that delayed planting of some of the less hardy plants. The routine has been that he tills another block of rows and I build up the rows, removing the clumps of weeds and grass that decided to try to root again, then he comes behind me putting up the supports for the tomatoes and beans. Then we got the monsoon rains...6" in 36 hours. Luckily, it was a steady lighter rain, so the plants in the ground didn't get pummeled. I was still afraid to look at garden the following morning. I found all of the nice pretty raised rows of vegetables surrounded by 18" wide moats of water 3-4" deep. By the second morning though, all of that had soaked in and the plants survived the excessive watering. Another day to dry out, then back to tilling, building up rows and planting more transplants from the greenhouse.
Which brings us to this weekend. The wind was bad on Friday, but it was brutal yesterday. I put out a lot of plants Friday, and I spent most of the day yesterday building more rows. Got 11 more done, but I'd have to come inside after every couple of rows for a break. It was 36 when I woke up at 5:30, but we had a heavy fog and it reached 45 by 7:00 AM. There are too many rows to cover them all, so hopefully the fog helped protect the uncovered ones. Another not quite so chilly night is forecast for tonight, then back to normal the rest of the week. Fingers crossed.
Besides the weather issues, the bunnies took a liking to the Swiss Chard last week. They didn't bother it last year, so I didn't cover it when I planted it a few weeks ago. It has a net covering it now. I also had some problems with the birds finding the newly seeded trays of winter squashes, pumpkins and melons in the greenhouse a few days ago. Luckily, a few had germinated beforehand, plus they do germinate pretty quickly, so only lost a week on their growth. I now have a nice little net tent over the once again newly seeded trays. It's not like we don't keep them well fed over by the house.
On the other hand, everything is moving right along. There's still a few more things to plant out, but I was waiting till the middle of May to do those anyway, ie: things that are too sensitive to cooler temperatures or additional rows of things already planted. I'm really pleased with how well we are progressing. This first year of this new garden space has been a long slow progress as we till and build up rows, removing weeds, grass and rocks, but future gardens will be a breeze with the wide row beds already established. By the way, I found a real arrowhead while digging in the dirt. That was really exciting!
So, yes, gardening is a challenge dealing with cold, rain, heat, wind,  birds, wildlife and pest bugs (which thankfully haven't made an appearance yet)  especially when we are committed to growing fresh produce for others. But I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

Happy Mother's Day!

Taking Stock

Not sure about the rest of the country, but here in our part of Kentucky, we were already almost 8" below our average rainfall for the year a week ago. I haven't checked since the rains have arrived, but we have been getting quite a bit of rain lately and it is doing wonders for the garden. It has also settled most of the air-bourne allergens that caused me so much distress recently.
I kind of fell short in keeping track of what all has been planted already. I had great intentions of keeping fabulous records this year for future reference, but that has already fallen by the wayside. I have a small notebook with my running to-do list that I carry with me. At some point later this spring, maybe I can go back and transfer the information from my to-do list to a proper record keeping journal.
In previous posts, I have relayed updates of how things are progressing in preparation for the upcoming CSA season. In my mind, it still seems to me like everything isn't going as quickly or as smoothly as I'd like. But as I work in the garden, I see the progress in every little step. It's a lesson in patience. It was a huge project getting the initial dirt work done, but that was only a small part of the work needed to get to a point where we can actually plant in the garden. Turning the soil twice and incorporating the established grass, etc has turned the almost rock hard clay base into a beautiful soil that is easily workable. We prepare a couple of rows at a time, pulling soil from what will be the walkways up onto the wide rows and smoothing it out a bit. A few days later, we go back and pull any weeds or grasses that have survived, and then plant whatever goes in that particular row. As Al mows and bags grass clippings from the yard, I go back and add a thin layer of the organic mulch to help retain some moisture in the rows, plus help keep the weeds from getting away from me. It is a slow process for sure, but one that is working well for us. The secret to keeping weed growth down is to not let them get a good foothold. By keeping their roots exposed to air, the weeds will eventually die out. As rows are planted, they are then added to the maintenance rotation, hopefully keeping us on top of any weed invasions. In a perfect world, anyway.
I'm not sure of the exact dimensions of the new garden, because it kept getting bigger as we decided to add more vegetables and varieties. I'm guessing it's roughly 250' long by 40' wide. After the remaining tomatoes and peppers are planted sometime in the next day or two, we'll have roughly 2/3 of it planted. The rest of the garden will only take 2-3 days to finish planting, as it will be planted with closely spaced seeds and not transplants. The next step will then be to put up the supports for the tomatoes and beans.
The perennial garden is looking wonderful too. I spent a couple of hours pulling weeds yesterday and cleaning up the rows to plant the Herb transplants from the greenhouse. I still need to weed the Asparagus and Strawberry rows and mulch them, but then the perennial garden will be done.
As I take stock of what we have accomplished thus far, I am quite pleased. I am anxious to show off our gardens to our CSA members when we have our first member visits.


Just a quick update

Everything is looking good. We opted not to plant out any more of the greenhouse plants till we get past this weekend of cold nights. But once they are in the garden, boy, are they going to take off growing! Cherry tomatoes look to be chomping at the bit to start producing. Lots and lots of tiny, little buds just waiting there for the right time to open up! I really think we're going to have some available with the early deliveries that include a few baby greens for some wonderful spring salads! Anyway, the cold sensitive plants are still tucked warmly in the greenhouse.

Thanks to all the early garden prep work we got done, even with these few cool nights, we are still pretty much on schedule with everything. A few things might not start coming in the week expected, but won't be too far behind. Hot weather slows down some of the cool season growth of spring crops, sometimes to the point of stopping growth. On the other hand, cool weather slows down the growth of heat loving plants sometimes by a week or two. We had already worked in an extra 2-4 weeks of delivery at the end of the season to share whatever produce is still available with our CSA members, so no worries about receiving the right amount of food and number of delivery weeks.

 Another reason I was so happy we were ahead on the garden work is because I'm currently having a short hospital confinement. I developed a sinus infection recently, and with the addition of the tree and dandelion pollen blowing and working with the freshly cut grass/hay clippings we use for mulch, I was having a little extra trouble breathing. I am in for some observations and tests, but should be going home tomorrow. Al is taking care of the watering and plant needs, and giving me a  couple of daily tray by tray updates of plant conditions. It's all good....


Moving Right Along

A special note to those who are still undecided about joining a CSA in the Owensboro, Bowling Green or Beaver Dam, KY areas...there's only one week left to take advantage of our 10% discount for joining us and paying in full by April 15th. We also have a payment installment plan available. We're pretty confident that you won't be disappointed. Email me, so I can send you the membership form.
It's hard to believe our CSA season starts in just a few weeks. Needless to say, we have been really busy. Everything is looking good and we are pretty close to being on the schedule I set up back in January. The greenhouse is overflowing with plants and we've been preparing and planting as quickly as we can. The grass has turned bright green from the last couple of rains and the trees are starting to leaf out. I love this time of year when everything starts coming to life! 
This past week we planted out transplants of Swiss Chard, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Kohlrabi. White, Red and Yukon Gold Potatoes, Red and Yellow Onions were planted a couple of weeks ago, as were Carrot seeds, which are all already growing nicely. The Celery seedlings aren't quite ready to plant yet. Over the next couple of days, I'll be planting the following seeds: Beets, Radishes and Sugar Snap Peas, followed by Lettuces, Greens and Spinach and all of the Herb plants I started in the house. Plus it's about time to plant more Potatoes and Onions. Next week we'll start planting the Tomato and Pepper plants in the garden, then the remaining vegetable seeds, Corn, Beans, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Squashes, Melons, Okra, etc. Some of these seeds will be started in the house today, as a guarantee that we'll have the right age of plants once they are planted out, since it looks like we're in for some seriously fluctuating temperatures over the next couple of weeks. There are several crops, that as the summer progresses, that we will continue to plant every couple of weeks to insure a steady supply of vegetables. By the way, I was asked about the Herbs that will be included and I want to clarify that unless you are interested in drying them for future use, they will only be included as small quantities.
The Strawberries are putting out new leaves and the Asparagus should start coming up in a couple of weeks. The fruit trees are putting out blossoms. Looks like we have a good colony of honey bees for pollination this year. They are swarming all of the fruit trees and flowering bushes. Now, if we just don't get a hard freeze, we should have lots of fruit this summer. 
I finally got all of the Gladiolas bulbs, Peony roots, and Rose bushes planted. That will give us some nice flowers, along with the new annual flower seedlings that will go out later, for a flower bouquet once in awhile. Just a reminder, the flower bouquets aren't really a part of the CSA shares. This year they are just a way for us to say "Thank You" for joining us.
So, all in all, I'm really happy with the way everything is progressing. Looking forward to a successful and bountiful year!

Struggling with patience

The weather forecast is like the proverbial carrot dangling in front of me. Promises of slowly increasing night time lows. I know it won't be much longer until we are in full swing The greenhouse is full of plants and I'm ready for the first round of spring plantings. Patience is not one of my strong suits and it is really being tested this year. Hopefully, this is the last night with temperatures below 40.
I worked out in the greenhouse and garden all day. The weather was absolutely perfect! I planted 2 beds of potatoes and one of onions. I also put out transplants of broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts and celery. Tomorrow, I'll be planting seeds of radishes, a number of lettuces, mustard, beets, green onions and carrots. I'm sure there are a few more that I can't think of at the moment.
I planted 250 Asparagus seeds in seed trays a full month ago. After not seeing any sprouts, I started another 150 seeds a few days ago. While I was watering yesterday, I noticed a dozen or so tiny Asparagus seedlings. The sweet potatoes I set up in jars of water a month ago, were also just sitting there. Almost defiantly, refusing to grow vines. So, I set up three more sweet potatoes, this time in a sand bed. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Yes, tiny little vines are now appearing on the original sweet potatoes! I definitely need to work on my patience.
I'm adding a huge new flowerbed across the south side of our home. The location and size is mostly to make mowing much easier, so that we don't have to use the weed eater to get where the mower wouldn't reach. The plastic garden edging has been put in place. I planted 5 more roses along the outer edge, in line with the 3 in front of the deck. We planted 4 Buddleia Butterfly Bushes a few weeks ago. These smell just like Lilacs!  Depending on how much shade I think there will be, I may under plant the bushes with a few Hostas. I have lots of flowers from my winter sowing project to fill in any and all gaps in all of the beds surrounding the house. I just have to be sure to save room for a garden bench and Samson's little wading pool. 

Fairly dangerous

I've decided I could be fairly dangerous given the right circumstances. I really try to think rationally and plan accordingly, and I always have the best intentions. But sometimes, well...I just get carried away. Must be something to do with my astrological sign. There's just no other explanation for it.
I want a greenhouse. Not a little backyard greenhouse, like I have now, but a big ol' farm size hoop house. Of course, it has to have heat, so that I can grow things all winter. Lots of shelves, too, for all the plants, plus all the potting supplies. And a little table and a couple of chairs, so I can sit and admire my handiwork, or discuss the virtues of gardening with a friend. Yep, I want a real greenhouse! But I have my trusty little 10' x 10' greenhouse for now and it is serving me well. Although, I will soon be running out of room in there. Might even have to remove my chair.
After the little bit of rain last night, and the rain off and on all day, it was too muddy to work outside today. So I spent the better part of the day potting up little seedlings to the next size pot. I have lost count of how many tomatoes and peppers are now in individual pots. It sure didn't look like many when they were itty bitty in the seed trays. Suffice it to say, I don't think there is going to be a shortage of either here. The 30 or so bell peppers previously potted up are doing fantastic. I expect to see a bloom or two any day now. There's 30 additional little tomato plants that are about ready to be potted up again. The tomatoes that were moved to the greenhouse a couple of days ago are sure enjoying the extra light. We even have some blooms starting on a couple of the Cherry Tomatoes! The winter sown herbs have been divided and put into pots. They smell absolutely wonderful! I have close to 50 Artichoke plants, looking quite content, sitting on my office table. Half of the seed potatoes I bought a few weeks ago have been quartered and are laid out to cure on a 5' section of my kitchen counter.
Yes, sometimes I get carried away...but we'll have plenty of fresh produce for our CSA shares! 

More unconventional Gardening

Remember the posting where I determined I was an unconventional gardener?  Well, I just wanted to share the progress of some new growing techniques I've been testing. One is Winter Sowing and the other two are using Grow bags and Self-watering Planters.
I have 36 Winter Sowing containers with flower seeds and herbs. There are 21 half gallon juice jugs and 15 disposable pie pans with clear plastic dome tops. These containers and jugs of seeds were to be sat outside in the winter weather and would germinate at the proper time for each of them. I didn't get the Herbs outside soon enough and they started sprouting in just 4 days. They are all doing very well and are close to being ready to plant out in the garden. The flower seeded jugs did get moved outside and just started sprouting a couple of days ago, but appear to be doing well, too.
The 4 Self-watering Planters are home-made using a bucket and a colander. These are working great for the Cherry Tomatoes. They provide a constant supply of water, which is essential to tomato health. I'm planning on making up several more of these.
I started a few Potatoes in homemade Grow bags in the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago, just to see how these would work. I took a bunch of large dog food bags, punched a lot of holes in the bottom, turned them inside out and rolled the tops down. I put a few inches of soil in the bottom of each bag and planted a couple of seed potatoes. As they grow up, I'll unroll the bags a bit and stuff some straw into the bag. I'll continue doing this until the bags are totally unrolled and filled with straw, then, when the plants start dying back, there are suppose to be Potatoes that have grown in the straw.
I would love to post pictures of these projects and other sights around our place, but I haven't yet figured out how to post pictures here. Hopefully, I can figure it out soon!

We've started planting!

Nothing quite as entertaining as the adventure with the Butterfly Bush the other day to report. Unless of course, you were actually here to witness my hobbling around the place the next day. I didn't hurt myself, but I sure hurt all over. Especially my right arm. You know, from patting myself on the back? Honestly, I was just a little stiff and sore, but nothing serious. It actually felt pretty good to do something really physical.
The neighbor farmer came the next day and finished up the garden. It looks fantastic! I've been working on marking off the wide rows and pulling soil from the walkways up onto the rows. I prefer gardening with wide deep rows. They heat up better for planting and drain well. By planting intensively, it also cuts down on weed growth. We'll have at least thirty 3' x 20' rows. Maybe more, because he overshot the outline I had staked out before he started plowing. The soil is nice and crumbly, perfect growing condition. I'm still waiting on the results from the soil samples to see if I need to add anything, but they should be here soon. I did a preliminary at-home soil test, before I dropped the samples off at the County Extension Office, for comparison. If it was accurate, I shouldn't have to add much more than a little lime.
The tomatoes were moved out to the greenhouse today. Tomorrow, I'll pot them up to the next size, as they are getting way too big for the pots they are in now. Still have about three weeks before I will feel confident enough with the weather to plant them out in the garden. The Cherry Tomatoes in the self-watering buckets are doing great, already about 3' high. A wide row each of Broccoli, onions and potatoes have already been planted. Planning on planting 2 more rows of potatoes and a row of Sugar Snap Peas tomorrow.
I worked on the perennial garden the other day and fluffed up some empty rows for the new herbs. The strawberries are starting to leaf out. I'm going to add a heavy layer of mulch on top of the Asparagus to keep it from coming up too soon. 
Things seem a little slow in getting planted out in the garden, but I'm juggling dates to time everything so that it starts coming in the week we start deliveries.

Let the gardening season begin!

I check three weather web sites two or three times a day to see if the forecast is agreeable enough to get some of these plants in the ground. Two of the three sites are usually similar with their predictions, but that's not to say they are accurate. After much thought yesterday, even though it was absolutely beautiful, I decided to wait a bit longer to put out the transplants. Good thing, as it got down to about 30 in the wee hours this morning. I did order floating row covers to protect the plants in case of frost, but it hasn't arrived yet. All of the plants are looking good, with most well past the seedling stage. I haul them outside every day it's warm enough, and then back in about 5:00 PM. A heated greenhouse is definitely on the agenda this summer!

So, I've been piddling around the place. Got a few rows prepared, planted a wide row of onions and another of potatoes. Prepared the bed for the first planting of broccoli, which will go out tomorrow. Watering all the little plants. Doing some projects that are on my list...such as fill in my tire tracks when I got stuck in the van this winter. Yep, had to do that one. It was still holding water from rain early this week.
One project in particular, would have been better to wait till Al was back home. But no, I have watched him enough to have a general idea of how to do things. Besides, I wanted to surprise him. We have this beautiful Butterfly Bush that has the prettiest red blooms all summer. I just didn't know it got as big as it did, since Lucy (the goat we used to have) so kindly kept it pruned each summer. We moved it two years ago close to the goldfish pond. No problem. It sure was pretty and the birds loved it summer and winter. It must have been really happy there, because it sure grew fast. By mid spring, the branches started smacking us in the face every time we walked by it. Not thinking, I trimmed it back, taking way more than I should have, forgetting that they bloom on the previous year's growth. So no pretty blooms last year. I looked at it a couple of days ago and it was still dormant, so I figured I better move it now. This morning I dug about 18" out all around the trunks. Then I went all around it again, scooping out soil by hand, buried up to my elbows, on my knees of course, checking for more roots that may need to be clipped. Give it a shove...nope, it ain't gonna budge. Well! I'll just go take a break then. I've been at this for two hours already. I'm worn out, but I've come too far to turn back. So I take my break and then head back out there. This time, I go around the bush again, pushing the shovel up under the bush, lifting it as high as I could and shoving 2x4s under it. Figured I could stand on the protruding boards and lift it enough to break loose what little roots must still be holding it. That didn't work either. I took my wounded pride over to where I wanted the bush transplanted to and preceded to dig the hole, while I tried to work out in mind exactly how I was going to finish what I started. I finally remembered watching Al remove a couple of small trees last summer. I grabbed a tow strap and drove the garden tractor out of the shed. I wrapped the tow strap around the root ball and hooked the other end to the back of the tractor. I carefully maneuver the tractor around so I can pull the bush 10 feet and hopefully, drop it right into the freshly dug hole. And it worked! Slid across there just like I planned! I was sure patting myself on the back. Only one problem....the hole wasn't quite big enough, nor deep enough! Back on knees again, buried up to my elbows, scooping out cold soil. Finally got it sitting right in the hole, put a lot of the loose soil back in the hole, packed it down and watered well. I did it! Only took me four hours. Didn't hurt myself. Decided I had enough hard labor for one day, and took the rest of the day off. Samson and I went to town for lunch to celebrate my success. Even treated him to chicken strips, since I kind of neglected the ball throwing game we play all day...every day.
And it's a good thing I did take the afternoon off. Our neighbor, who plowed the new garden space, stopped by this evening to make sure it was dry enough to come back and finish it up tomorrow with a tractor-drawn tiller. It will take us a couple of weeks to get the wide rows all marked off and prepped, which will then be about the time to start planting in the garden.
Let the gardening season begin!

Seed starting continues

I'm still chugging along starting seeds. Actually, I have become obsessive about it. There is just something immensely rewarding about watching things grow. Have I told you this before? Well, I said I was obsessed. I'm planting extra seed to guarantee we have plenty of vegetables to share, plus extra to allow for seed or seedling losses. So far I've only had 2 trays of seeds that didn't germinate. But a fresh pack of seeds in new trays replaced the failed trays. A few seedlings bit the dust. My fault...I had the trays sitting at just the right height to be nailed by Samson's tail.
I wasn't too sure about growing Artichokes here, so I started 50 seeds. All are doing well! Way more than we need, but what the heck. Artichokes typically don't produce till the second year, after going through a winter. There's a technique to get it to produce the first year. The seeds are germinated and the seedlings raised for 6-8 weeks, then chilled for a couple of weeks, to trick it into thinking it had gone through a winter. If all goes well, we'll have Artichokes this fall.
I've started moving cold tolerant seedlings to the greenhouse. The less tolerant ones will remain in the house, nice and warm, until the night time temperatures stay above 50. Trying to avoid having to run a heater out there, so that we can keep our expenses down. A savings that we pass on to our members. Luckily, we have good southern light in the house, so we don't have to provide additional lighting.    
I've started seed for the following flowers: Himalayan Poppies, Red Poppies, Nasturtium, Yellow Marigold, Petunia, Coleus, Aster, Phlox, Larkspur, Forget Me Nots, Sweet William, Balsam, Zinnia, Bachelor's Button, Baby's Breath, Purple Coneflower, Penstemon and Apricot Beauty Foxgloves. Still have a number of other flowers to start, but I ran out room. We'll have a beautiful selection of flowers for the weekly shares.
Not only am I being obsessive, I am also addicted. Gardeners are like kids in a candy store when they find a garden center. I tried rationalizing that I didn't need any more plants, but...but...but the prices were too good to pass up. Garden centers are such enablers! Of course I walked out of there with new plants. I now have three Azaleas, one large Jasmine, six peonies, and 4 rose bushes to plant. In addition to the 100 Gladiolas bulbs, I've yet to plant, or the other 500 I still want to order..Don't know where everything will be planted yet, but I'll find a happy home for them somewhere in the yard.
Now that the temperatures are starting to come up to where they are suppose to be, we've had just enough rain in the past three days, that we haven't been able to plant anything in the garden. No worries, though, as delivery doesn't start for 7 or 8 weeks. Just another reason for starting so many seeds early. By planting mostly transplants in the garden, we'll be gaining a few weeks on the season.
Hopefully next time I can start telling you about everything we planted in the garden. Till then...

Making the switch to eating locally grown food

The news stations have been reporting about the recent increase in food prices because of weather events. The current price for a 25# box of wholesale tomatoes is $30, up from $7. Why? Because Florida lost 70% of their tomato crops due to extended freezing temperatures.
It doesn't end there. California, which provides 50% of the nation's produce, has had extreme weather too, which damaged some of their crops. Strawberries were specifically mentioned on the news. The earthquakes in Chile impacted both the harvest and transportation of plums and grapes.
We have become accustomed to the rows and rows of colorful trucked in produce, where we can buy just about any fruit or vegetable at any time of the year. We may be in for a shock in the coming weeks, when we see a smaller selection and sky high prices. All the more reason to eat locally grown's usually much less expensive.
I don't buy much in the way of fresh produce. I would love to tell you that we only eat locally grown and in season food, or that we preserve nine month's worth of food from the garden each fall, but that's not the case. We do buy some fresh vegetables during the winter, such as lettuce, tomatoes on a occasion, and potatoes and onions starting sometime in January, which is about the time we run out of our homegrown stash. We also buy some canned vegetables. Then, there are the foods that just can't be grown locally, so I grin and bear it, when I pick up bags of oranges or grapefruits. A good portion of the other vegetables and fruits we consume through the winter come from our freezer. 
But this is a new year. We have plans to put in a winter harvest garden this coming fall, so that we can eat more "locally grown" food for a longer period. We'll be offering a week by week share to our members who wish to continue with us till the end of this season's harvest.

Chores and Chickens

It's sure been nice to get this break from the dreary cold. We've been able to get outside to tackle some yard work, while getting a healthy dose of fresh air. One thing about living on a farm, the chores are never done. Yes, some can be put off for a little while. In most cases though, those small chores turn into big jobs if left undone for too long. We're currently working on finding the chicken coop and attached pen that were engulfed by monster weeds last summer. Just never had time to get to it before the weeds got away from us. Luckily, the previous bunch of chickens had been adopted out a few months earlier. I'm still debating on buying chickens this spring. It's always nice to have the very freshest eggs and they are quite entertaining.  However, since we prefer to let our chickens free-range during the day, it would mean putting up about 500 foot of fence around the two new garden plots to keep them out. They have a tendency to want to taste just about every tomato, melon and squash in the garden, in spite of the fact that they are served the same things most evenings for dinner.
I finished seeding the last of the available seed trays with the rest of the pepper varieties and some flower seeds. Some of the seedlings started a few weeks ago will be ready to pot up to larger size pots soon, freeing up several more trays, which in turn will be reseeded with something new. I'm really pleased with how the seedlings are coming along. They'll be a good size for transplants to the garden in April.
I tried something new this year with some of the flower seeds, called winter sowing. The concept is fairly simple: take some kind of container (milk jug, large soda bottle, plastic take-out containers), open it up and poke some ventilation holes in the top, put a few inches of damp potting mix in it, scatter seeds, cover with a little more potting mix, close it and tape the container to secure, set outside in the cold and the seeds will magically germinate at the right time. No muss, no fuss, no seed trays. Yep, fairly simple! Only problem is I didn't do it soon enough and most everything has germinated already due to the warmer weather. Oh well, I did want to plant lots of flowers this year. It will just be earlier than I planned.
If it doesn't rain much tonight, we're going to plant the spring vegetables over the next couple of days. I'll tell you all about it next time....

The unconventional gardener

That's me, the unconventional gardener. Nothing weird mind you, just doing things a little different. When I come across something that makes my work easier, or my body ache less, the decision to switch methods comes easily. No matter how silly it makes me looks.... 
I've been putting off clearing the small asparagus bed of last year's growth. It looked terrible, but it served a purpose over the winter providing shelter for birds and rabbits. I decided today was THE day to get it done. I couldn't stand it any longer. I headed to the asparagus patch with pruners in hand. It only took cutting back the first plant to decide my back wasn't going to hold up to all that bending over, practically standing on my head. I layed the pruners aside and resorted to my usual method of cleaning up rows. It's quite a sight to see a grown woman crawling through the garden, but let me tell you, it works and it feels good stretching and reaching. As I made my way down the row, I found tell-tale signs of our rabbit visitors. Yeah! They leave behind wonderful treasures that fertilize the gardens naturally! I pulled the old asparagus stems out and some of the clover that was coming to life. I used to be kind of obsessive about weeds, but I've since learned that some weeds are a good thing. Like the little clover being a wonderful green manure. Unlike the Johnson Grass, which gets to 4' tall before I decide it's NOT corn. By being so up close and personal, I also have the opportunity to see how well our soil improves from year to year. When I reached the end of the bed, still on my knees, I turned around to admire my handiwork. At that point, I thought of how thankful I am for the life we have here on the hilltop....and that no one saw this old gal crawling in the garden.
Half of the herb seeds I started just four days ago, sprouted today. I feel just like a new mama! The others shouldn't be too far behind.
Had to go into town to Walmart today for a couple of bags of organic fertilizer. I walked the seed and plant section just to to remind me of anything I might have forgotten to order, that we'll need later for our CSA. I still have two orders laying on my desk, that haven't been sent off yet, with one of those orders being for 500 Gladiolas bulbs. You would think that would've stopped me from buying bulbs today. It didn't....we now have another 100 Gladiolas bulbs.


The excitement is mounting!

I know, I know....I said I wouldn't be posting for a few days, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't contain myself and I just had to share the news....

It was absolutely b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l today! I weeded the big flower bed around the house and cut back the dead flower stocks on the Hostas. We always leave them over the winter, because our feathered friends really enjoy perching on them. I also weeded around the goldfish pond, but had to take a couple of breaks to just sit and watch them. They sure are getting big! When our daughter was here this past summer with her family, the girls loved to sit on the side of pond splashing their feet in the water. One of the simple joys of country living. Al hand-dug the pond for me two years ago and we managed to fashion a waterfall. It's nothing spectacular, but we really enjoy it when we sit outside in the evenings.

But that isn't the exciting news. Drum roll, please....Our neighbor came early to plow the new garden! What a wonderful surprise to hear him come up the driveway. That may not sound all that exciting, but it means we don't have to do the whole garden with a little tiller and his tractor does a much better job than we could have done. We weren't expecting him until tomorrow, Rain was forecast for tonight, followed by several days of predicted rain, so I was prepared to have to wait another couple of weeks. He'll be back in a week and half to go over it again, then we can start preparing the rows for planting! Sure was glad to hear that he thought our soil looked really good. I'll take a soil sample in for testing this week, to see whether or not we need to add anything.

We've been moving the four 2' high cherry tomatoes out on the front deck for a little sun each day. I wouldn't be the least surprised to see blossoms in a few more weeks. Excited yes, but not surprised. Sure will be nice to have some home-grown tomatoes, even if they are cherry tomatoes.

Seedlings are all still doing well and I've been starting a few more trays of seeds. Won't be much longer until we move them all out to the greenhouse. We're waiting for the night time temperatures to stay at 40 degrees or higher for the most part, so that we don't have to run a heater in there too often.

I was going over our seed list earlier and had to laugh. Up to a year ago, I just picked our seeds up from the local box store. Nothing fancy, just the basics. That wasn't really so bad, though, as anything home-grown is far better tasting than store-bought. After we decided to start our CSA, I ordered a few catalogs. We have literally spent hours trying to decide what to order, focusing on heirlooms and open-pollinated vegetables. We think you will be happy with our choices. We're going to have a great season!


Last of the seeding trays

Yes, spring is almost here! I saw my first Robin of the year yesterday. The sun is shining, The temperatures are close to the normal average. New growth is peeking out from under the dead foliage of last year's flowers. Won't be much longer...
The Early Golden Ace Cabbage, Snowball Cauliflower and Catskill Brussels Sprout seedlings are doing well. The Bright Lights Swiss Chard is beautiful, even at this tiny stage, with the red and yellow stems. The American Flag Leek seedlings look a little wimpy. I haven't grown them before, so I don't know if this is normal or not. I'll be starting another two trays of 72 today anyway, so I'm not too worried if the first tray doesn't do well. Leeks take 150 days to mature, which is why I'm starting them so early. The first tray of Broccoli still hasn't germinated after a month. It usually takes 1 1/2 to 3 weeks, but the temperature may not have been just right or it might have been a pack of old seed. Obviously, my checking on them once an hour didn't help either. I'll be starting another tray this week.
The first few years we owned our place, we concentrated on establishing bushes and trees, both ornamental and fruiting. We started with a hayfield and have been slowly "landscaping" it. We spent two summers building the soil in the gardens and putting in the Asparagus and Strawberries, plus Gladiolas, Peonies, Roses, Daisies and Hostas.
This year I'm adding lots of flowers. I'll soon be starting seed trays of Baby's Breath, Bachelor Buttons, Coleus, Phlox, Asters, Larkspur, Forget-Me-Nots, Dianthus, Sweet William, Cleome, Sweet Pea, Balsam, Pansy, Holly Hocks, Cosmos, Morning Glory, Zinnias and Sunflowers. Next year we may be able to offer bedding plants to our members.
I made a lot of entries this last few days, but I think this one brings everyone up to speed, as to what we are doing in preparation for the CSA, and how things are progressing. From now on, I'll probably add new entries just once or twice a week. Once things start greening up outside, I'll post a few pictures. There just isn't anything of interest to share at this time.
We still have a couple of memberships available, so if you know of someone who would want to join us, please pass our info along.

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